5 Tips For Avoiding Creating Confusing Questions

    Surveys are there to get useful information from respondents that you can use for business decisions. Anything that disrupts the usefulness of the poll immediately devalues the survey exercise and wastes your time and money. One disruption in polls that is very common is adding confusing questions.


    >> Create your online poll with Drag’n Surveyclick here



    What are confusing questions?

    There are many different styles that can then be interpreted as confusing questions. For example, you could ask a question in a manner of tone and style that aren’t used by the audience. Or you could create a question that the audience can’t answer because it doesn’t apply to them, but not answering it prevents them from completing the poll.

    Confusing questions within surveys often lead to skewed results and therefore leaders in your business will make wrong decisions to take the business forward. Here are several ways that your polls can be using confusing questions and how you can avoid them in the future.


    1. Leading Questions

    A leading question in a poll is one that presents the audience with a bias of which side in an argument they should agree with. Leading questions are very common within surveys; but they also offer little value as they prevent the audience from offering their true opinions on a subject. In addition, they can be confusing questions for audiences who don’t agree with the statement embedded within the poll.

    An example of a leading question is:

    Do you think the US education system needs improvement?

    The word improvement implies that there are deficiencies and that some improvement is needed. Some people might like the US education system. However, rewording the question into a more neutral fashion can eliminate the bias in the question.

    What are your opinions of the US education system?


    2. Loaded Questions

    Another common mistake made on polls is to have loaded questions in your polls. This is a style of confusing questions that pushes the audience into answering a question in a way that doesn’t reflect their true feelings. Loaded questions are one of the main reasons why survey respondents abandon the survey.

    For example, a loaded question might be:

    Where do you play sport at the weekends?

    On its own, this question is a loaded question as it assumes that people play sports and at the weekend. This isn’t the case for everyone. While some people might answer truthfully and say nowhere (or a location if they do play sports at the weekend), some will abandon the survey and others will lie.

    Instead, you need to reword the answer to the question so everyone can be honest. This question should be split up into two separate questions like:

    Do you play sports at the weekend?

    If you participate in sports, where do you play?


    3. Double-Barreled Questions

    Two questions in one is not an efficient use of the survey space, all double-barreled questions are confusing questions as respondents don’t know which to answer first or at all. The worst double-barreled questions are those that ask questions from two opposing points of view. In this case the audience will try to second guess the point of the poll as they try to please you. This makes the answers less than honest and worthless to your business.

    An example of a double-barreled question is:

    Do you like to the survey and the compensation offered for completion?

    Another double-barreled question style is by introducing two groups within the question. An example of this style of double-barreled question is:

    Do you think the text book is good for high-school students and university students?

    As high-school students and university students have different requirements, this is really asking two questions. A better way to ask this question is to split it into two questions or leave it more open ended like:

    What age group group do you think will find this text book most useful?


    4. Absolute Questions

    You should avoid using absolute questions as there are rarely any absolutes in the world we live in. Absolute questions usually force a respondent into giving a response that isn’t a true reflection of their opinions. Questions that are absolute often include “yes/no” responses or including words such as “always”, “never” and “ever”.

    A good example of an absolute question is:

    Do you always run when you get home from work?

    The use of the word “always” implies there is only one way to do something. Using these confusing questions can result in many abandoned polls and skewed results. Instead, this question should be reworded as:

    How often do you run when you get home from work? (never, 1-2 a week, 3-4 times a week, 5 times a week)


    5. Badly Worded Question

    The words you use in surveys can also lead to confusing questions. There should be no room for interpretation within your questions that might lead to your audience coming to their own conclusion and answering a question that you haven’t asked.

    For example, you could ask:

    Do you use mobile devices to watch videos online?

    This question can be confused because some people don’t count tablets or android devices as mobile devices but rather tablets. Therefore the question should be written as:

    Do you use mobile devices (e.g. mobiles, smartphones, tablets, android devices, iPad) to watch videos online?

    Using this phrasing establishes what you mean in the survey so there is little room for interpretation. You should ensure that you avoid jargon, industry language and anything else that makes the question confusing for audiences not used to the industry talk.



    Confusing questions in your poll can often be found. However, they skew the results of your polls and devalue them. Learn to rewrite survey questions so you’re avoiding writing questions that won’t offer you the vital information to make proper business decisions.


    Read the french version
    5 astuces pour éviter de créer des questions confuses dans un sondage, click here